Foundations

Every chance I get, I tell people of the foundation of faith, family, and love on which my parents built their lives. That, in turn, set such a wonderful example for their children and from there, their grandchildren.

I went to stay with them for a couple of weeks a while back as my dad was preparing to begin his journey of treatment for stomach cancer. That treatment consisted of rigorous and brutal chemotherapy, a total gastrectomy (stomach removal), followed by more chemotherapy.

The evening before surgery as I was going to bed, I walked past their room and this is what I saw. Each knelt by the side of their bed, heads bowed in prayer. Prayer has always been an important part of their lives, but this picture, this moment, caused me to pause and catch my breath. And it’s forever etched in my memory.

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Today my dad is cancer free. Their prayer life is every bit as important now as it ever has been. The difference their example has made to their family as well as friends, is without borders.

My question for all of us is what are we doing to make a positive difference in the lives of others–family, friends, and others looking on that we’re unaware of.

My challenge for all of us is this: If you can’t think of anything, why not start now? It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

A person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear r

The Company We Keep

We Become Who We Spend Our Time With

Even though it’s not Wednesday, I had to sneak in an extra post.

This morning as I was running around Lake Estes in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, my thoughts circled around who I am today, who I was, and who I want to be. Thank God–literally–that I’m not who I was, that I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that the power to be who I want to be lies within me.

On a recent episode of Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores (I admit it, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie), the character played by Treat Williams told his daughter that life is about the re-writing more than the writing. If you don’t like what’s on the page, change it.

Wow! Just wow!

The profound truth of that statement is so enlightening and empowering. Our lives are not changed by anyone else unless we allow it to be.  We have the ultimate power to change our own lives in any direction we want it to be changed.

Last weekend I was out to breakfast in a busy restaurant with some of my extended family. A table of six, not far from our table, got their food, bowed their heads, kids as well, and prayed over their meal before eating. It wasn’t the in-your-face-notice-us prayer, but humble and discreet. My husband and I always pray before meals at home, and when we’re in a public place I will sometimes quietly bow my head and silently give thanks. But only sometimes. Why not all the time? Because I forget. It hasn’t become a habit. That morning, I asked my nephew who is a youth pastor in Minneapolis, MN, if he would say the prayer over our meal. It was powerful, it was beautiful, and it was meaningful.

A week later, I was having dinner with some friends. Our food arrived, we were talking and laughing, enjoying one another’s company. When I got home I realized I didn’t give thanks. I didn’t have the reminder from someone around me, I got busy having fun, and simply forgot. While that’s not a bad thing, I want to be the person who gives thanks all the time, not just sometimes when I remember.

My point is how easily influenced we are by those around us. Subconsciously, we take in and absorb the world around us. We become who we spend our time with. There are some powerful Bible verses about this as well:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1st Corinthians 15:33

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. – Proverbs 22:24

Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 1 Corinthians 5:6

Take the time to figure out who it is you want to be, who you want to grow into, and how you want to re-write the pages of your life’s book. Because you, and only you, have the power to make that happen. Surround yourself with the people you admire and respect and you will become someone you admire and respect.

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Prayer in Numbers

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It started, as my ideas usually do, on a morning run. Typically I like to listen to music or audio books when I’m running, but there are times I enjoy simply basking in the sounds of nature or beautiful silence. And there are times I go on a prayer run.

This was one of those mornings.

There are a lot of people in my life that are in need of prayer right now, and as I was running, and praying, it occurred to me how many people out there in the universe, people outside of my small circle, that need prayer.

What would happen if I prayed for one person every day for 30 days. Someone that I came across in my daily routine. A daily routine that often becomes a rut that we continue mindlessly.

BUT…

If I prayed for at least one person, it would force me to live mindfully while I searched out the person God leads me to. The person who needs prayer that day.

And then it was placed on my heart to call my sisters to join in this challenge with me. Both who enthusiastically agreed to join.

From there, I took it to my job–going as far as I could without crossing the whole line of church and state since I work for a government office–and invited several people to join the cause, also all who enthusiastically joined.

Yesterday my person was someone I spoke with on the phone. He’d received a head injury years ago while serving in the navy, later had a stroke at a much-too-young age, and recently had become a victim of a second degree assault. My job as an advocate is to help make sure medical bills are taken care of. This man, after all he’d been through, told me before we hung up, “I just give it to the Lord.”

Wow!!

And when someone yells and cusses at me over the phone, what better salve for the heart than to pray for them rather than what would normally come to my mind–and lips–causing destruction all the way around.

Lesson learned – Prayer helps the prayed for as well as the one doing the praying.

Why thirty days? While experts claim it takes two weeks to create a new habit, I’m a slow learner. It takes me a very long time to break a bad habit. Sometimes months. So doubling that two-week theory of the experts gives me needed extra time. 🙂

Do you want to join our prayer challenge party?

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Running is Cheaper Than Therapy

Running

I’ve posted in the past that running is my therapy. And a whole lot cheaper! Running in the early morning is when my mind churns out ideas for my novels or short stories, or brings to light an answer to something I’ve been praying for. However, that being said, this typically only happens when I’m running outside in nature, not on a treadmill or on the track at the gym where I feel like a hamster on a wheel. This was my lesson this morning:

When I think I’m certain of what God is telling me, it’s important for me not to be so certain I’ve heard the message that I miss what He’s really telling me. In other words, when I think I’ve heard the message, listen further and don’t walk out of the room while He’s still talking.

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The last several weeks I’ve been promising myself that I am going to work on staying tuned in to His presence throughout my day. That usually lasts until I walk through the door at work when busyness, deadlines, the phone ringing, and constant chatter around me transports me far away from Him. Without realizing it, I allow the noise of the world around me to drown out the One who brings me peace in the midst of chaos.

Which brings up the importance of mindfulness even in the small things. While I was running this morning I mentally mapped out the route I would take, a different path from the one I typically enjoy. When I got to the crossroads that would take me on my preplanned route, I was so busy thinking about the day ahead of me, my mind miles ahead from where I was physically at that moment, that I automatically and mindlessly turned onto the same path that is routine. I was certain the message was to pay attention. And while that is a good thing to work on, it was just the surface of what went so much deeper.

That happens all too often in life every day. What has become habit in our lives is what we tend to do naturally, and if we aren’t mindful of the present moment, our thoughts and behaviors fall into the habit rut. The only way to create a new, more positive habit is to be mindful of what we’re doing and thinking in the present moment. And the only way to make mindfulness a natural activity is to mindfully practice mindfulness.

Had I not kept my mind and ears open, I would have walked out of the room at the “pay attention” part of the conversation, figuratively speaking, which was a very small brush stroke in the whole picture. I would have been blessed by the sun but would have missed out on the beauty of the entire landscape.

Another thought that came to me during my run? An entire scene for one of the books in my mystery series. I would say it was a pretty productive day before I even left my house for the office.

Rather than morning coming too soon, I’m already looking forward to my morning therapy session to see what gems He will bless me with. 🙂

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Through Eyes of Surrender

Surrender

I frequently pray that God use me as a vessel to draw others to Him, that He fill me with the fruits of His Spirit, that others may be drawn to Him through His light within me.

While running one morning this past week, counting my blessings and adoring the breathtaking pink and white clouds as the sun began to rise above them, I felt a small, yet persistent tug on my heart. God gently nudging me that it’s time to perhaps get a bit uncomfortable to bring hope to others. If even just one.

He let me know it’s time to share my experience, strength, and hope.

I briefly mentioned in a past post my battle with alcohol. A battle that began so many years ago when I was in junior high school. I had always struggled with feeling adequate–or rather inadequate–and having a birth defect, what the optometrist called a lazy eye, didn’t help matters. I rarely, if ever, looked anyone in the eye when talking for fear they would see the “ugliness” I knew was there.

In seventh grade I went to a slumber party, thrilled I had been invited, but filled with fear that the other girls would discover my secret–the secret that I didn’t actually belong there with them.

The slumber party was equipped with giggling girls and lime and cherry vodka, and as nervous as I was to drink, knowing it was wrong, it was the effects from that smooth, syrupy sweet liquid flowing down my throat and into my blood stream that made me find the self-confidence I’d always longed for. I felt relief like I’d never known. It was the answer to every problem I’d ever had in my young life.

And the beginning of so many mounting problems as my young life gained momentum.

Junior high journeyed into senior high, and my drinking accompanied me as my best friend. Only under the influence did I feel worthy and relaxed. And only under the influence did I feel comfortable conversing with others, especially those of the opposite sex. And I was so good at blending in!

Or so I thought.

My extended family was rife with alcoholism so it certainly wasn’t foreign territory to me. But surely I would never get like that. I was, afterall, different and special. And whenever I forgot that, all I had to do was drink some of the magic liquid and I would remember.

My senior year was pretty much an eternal grounding.  The day I would get ungrounded I would stay out all night only to get grounded again. This only resulted in resentments stacking up like bricks, sure my parents were out to make my life miserable. I mean, seriously, I wasn’t doing anything everyone else wasn’t doing.

Or so I thought.

College ended before completing a full year because it got in the way of my drinking and having fun. After all, wasn’t that what life was for? Fun? I ended up enrolling in beauty college, worked in a hair salon for a number of years, and ended up a few decades later working in the law enforcement arena, by which time drinking had become a daily occurrence. We were told that one DUI would terminate employment immediately. That caused bitter panic to rise in my throat. What if…? And the disturbing thought that it wasn’t that I was afraid of losing my job, but losing my secret. I had an amazing double life going on that was working just fine for me, thank you very much.

My mind played tricks on me numerous times through the years, causing me to wonder that what if alcohol was a problem for me? But then all I had to do was stop for a few days ( I even made it a month one time) and realized if I had a problem with alcohol, I surely wouldn’t have been able to do that.

I mean seriously…right? So I celebrated–by drinking.

Alcoholics lose jobs, I had always maintained one. (Well except for that one time… but that wasn’t my fault.)

Alcoholics made a mess of their marriages and home life. I had two beautiful kids and the picture perfect family. (Never mind the fact that I was divorced twice–from the same man. But that wasn’t my fault either.)

Alcoholics got DUI’s and ended up incarcerated. I’d never had a DUI, and, in fact, worked in the law enforcement arena now. (We’ll conveniently forget the fact that I had driven under the influence more times than I could possibly count, and on more than one occassion-okay, numerous occasions–couldn’t remember how I got home until I saw my car in the drive and realized I drove home.)

Alcoholics aren’t church-going people. I was. (Never mind the fact that I rarely attended anymore, but I was still a member of a church. That oughta count for something, right?)

Alcoholics don’t work out, they hang out in bars, and have zero motivation. (Hmmm…I often found it interesting that when I ran, my sweat would reek of alcohol. And my bar was my home–sneaking drinks between drinks so my secret was safe and I could still get my “fix.” And my passions of writing and reading had fallen by the wayside. But, hey! Life was busy! I couldn’t have time for everything!)

After too long at trying to rationalize, and sensing my life spinning out of control, I realized I was the queen of excuses and finally conceded that maybe–just maybe–I had a problem.

I did some reading, and while reading about “high-functioning alcoholics” saw my own life plastered on the pages as if I was the one interviewed for every single article. It was then I knew that if I didn’t make some serious changes, it wouldn’t be long before I went from high-functioning to non-functioning.

But how could I be a writer if I didn’t drink? That’s what writers do, don’t they? And I realized that in my case, when I drank, I didn’t write.

When I stopped anestesizing with alcohol, I felt like a baby fresh from the womb, my skin and senses raw, every life event feeling like a physical assault. The harsh reality of living life on life’s terms, without my senses numbed, was at times intolerable. It was like having dental work done without Novocaine. And it wasn’t the not drinking that became hard, but the living without drinking. Living without my necessary medication.

I had heard about the whole Higher Power requirement if I was to be successful, but my faith had always been an important part of my life and it hadn’t helped thus far. These people obviously didn’t know what they were talking about.

Or so I thought.

I came to realize that as much as my faith had always meant to me, I had always tried to control God, and I began to realize how small my faith actually was. I claimed to have faith but neglected to act in faith. I allowed God into my life and heart, but let Him know in no uncertain terms that while He could be part of my life, I could handle my life by myself. Afterall, I had done a stellar job of it up to that point.

And that’s when I learned what the word surrender means. And what it does.  Luke 22:42 says, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  That, to me, is true surrender, and has saved my bacon more times than I can count. Surrendering my will to God on a daily basis, usually numerous times a day, is what keeps me on the playing board in this game of Life.

Since I’ve been sober, I see life and truly experience it. I get to truly live every day, one day at a time, and thoroughly enjoy and experience every joy and even every sorrow. I feel pain, yes, but I’m the better for it. I experience peace as I’ve never known. And for the first time, I can look in the mirror and see someone who has overcome an insurmountable obstacle.

I wouldn’t trade those years for anything in the world, though. It’s those years, those agonizing moments of self-doubt, self-loathing, and pain that have given me this amazing life I have today. Once I began to accept responsibility for my actions and stopped blaming others, allowing their behaviors to be excuses for my poor choices, my relationships began to grow beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. That isn’t to say there are no more struggles. Sometimes life just genuinely sucks. But now God is my best friend, carrying me through, rather than alcohol sucking me under. And when I do or say something that hurts another, I know to make amends (my sobriety depends on it) helping the relationship with that person  and with my God grow stronger, losing the guilt and inevitable resentment that brings nothing but loss of hope. Surrendering all brings full-on hope and brilliant peace showers down on me like a meteor shower.

When I was in the beginning of my journey, I mentioned to my husband the fear and shame I had of others finding out my secret. What if they thought less of me? What if I wasn’t fun anymore?

His response was straight from God. He said if someone thought less of me for wanting to be a better person, than it’s their loss. Pray for them and give it to God. He also said, “Honey, you’re so much more fun. Trust me!” Huh…go figure.  🙂

And about the writing thing–when I quit drinking I accomplished a passionate goal I’d had since as far back as I can remember. I published a book, The Inheritance. To quote a line from the movie God’s Not Dead: “God is good all the time; All the time, God is good.”

Wishing you peace.

 

A Glorious Sunday Drive

 On my bike.

As strange as this may sound, there’s nothing more relaxing to me than a long bike ride on a beautiful Sunday morning. Of course by the time the 30-mile ride is done, there’s nothing more relaxing than being back home, showered, with a bowl of popcorn and an A&W 10. 🙂

The half-way mark, or the destination where we turn and make the journey back home, holds an REI, Starbucks, and park by the river.  Those things in and of themselves will get me out of bed and on my bike.

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It’s while my feet and legs are pushing the pedals that turn the bike tires, that my mind turns, creating ideas for writing, and connects in conversation with God.

How can one not quickly develop a heart of gratitude for over-the-top blessings when those blessings surround me, filling all of my senses as I drink in the beauty of wildlife and vegetation, and as I inhale the aromas of the flowers, water and trees. I try to avoid the taste of an occasional bug or two, however.

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Even those things that are not extraordinary and go unnoticed on a daily basis, draw a smile on my face.

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A wild turkey? And my first thought wasn’t “Thanksgiving Dinner,” but “Magical.”

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Can’t you just smell the sweet aroma of cherry?

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This little guy was watching me as closely as I was watching him. 🙂

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Unlike babbling voices, there’s nothing quite so serene as a babbling brook.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson
As I mentioned in a precious post, I’m heading off to Camp Tuesday morning–Camp NaNo. And it’s there I will get to explore unlimited nature as I create worlds and places yet unknown.  It’s not too late to come along.  🙂

 

 

 

Prioritizing Priorities

Priorities

I’ve come to realize–again–that I’m not super-human and have conceded to the fact that I need to prioritize my life a bit. I’m confidant I’m not alone in that I tend to keep taking on more and more, often without realizing it, until life becomes a little bit of everything done somewhat well and nothing done well. There’s something to be said for striving to be a human-being rather than a human-doing.

When life becomes so busy with everything, it’s hard to fully enjoy anything. 

I began this blog because I was told it’s wise to do prior to publishing in order to build an audience. I quickly discovered, however, how much I enjoy writing these blog posts, saying what I feel called to say, and communicating with other like minded people who love to read and write. The number of people who follow my blog is not nearly as important any more as appreciating and communicating with those who do.

That being said, my life has been feeling out of balance and off-kilter, and I needed to sit back and take stock of where I spend too much of my time and energy, where I’m overextending, and where I need to invest more time and energy.

Electronics without question take up too much of my time and energy. My cell phone and computer can too quickly and easily become an extension of my fingers while I surf the Internet or check emails numerous times a day, play mind-numbing, time sucking games, when I could be spending that time on what is most important to me.

Other than my day job, which is necessary (though not necessarily that particular job, I’ve come to realize), which takes up 40+ hours of my week, my priorities for time spent are as follows:

1.) Time spent with God in prayer and meditation, aligning my thoughts with His will, allowing His love to penetrate my heart that I may love as He loves, and my family – my husband, children, grandchildren, and sponsor children. Being wife, mom, grandma and sponsor is a calling I’m honored to fulfill to the greatest of my ability.

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2.) Working out. Without this piece, the rest of my life – mind and body – fall apart and I can’t be healthy for any of the things that matter.

2.) Writing – first and foremost working on my novels, getting back into poetry, etc. This piece of writing brings me joy and fulfillment like nothing else. Not to mention sanity – and my family appreciates that. 🙂

3.) My blog

  • Writing posts
  • Responding to comments. I’ve made amazing cyber-friends through comments on my blog, and I am so grateful for them.
  • Reading posts – my goals is still to read, but I won’t be able to get to the same blogs every day like I’ve been striving so hard to do. If I want to explore and support other blogs, those who support mine and those amazing, yet undiscovered-by-me blogs out in the blog-o-verse, I’ve realized I need to spread my time out a bit.

4.) Giving some time back to the writing group I belong to, NCW, which has helped my writing see daylight after hibernation.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. “ -Stephen Covey

Here’s to prioritizing and finding balance, a moment, a day, at a time. And discovering peace through living your life by giving the most time to what matters the most.

What are your priorities? Do you often have to reassess? Do you find yourself spending too much time on what doesn’t matter in the scheme of things? Do electronics suck up too much of your time without even realizing it?

(6 more days until Camp! Camp NaNoWriMo. 🙂 )